I have been reviewing the information provided in the HCPSS Superintendent Area Adjustment Plan and thought I would share some of my early findings and questions in this document. I am going to detail some the items noted in the Executive Summary (capacity and equity) of the proposed plan and some other items on my “to look at” list.

Number of students moving:

According to the document there are 1,351 middle school students that will be reassigned in this plan. According to the 2019 Feasibility Study the estimated total number of students in middle school (for 2020-2021) is expected to be 14,015. So just over 9.6% of all middle school students would be reassigned in this plan (almost 1 in every 10 students).

Capacity / Overcrowding:

Let’s first start with this chart

If we do nothing (per the chart – BASE) we will have 5 schools over 110% capacity and 6 additional schools at or over 100% capacity. This plan continues to have 5 schools over 110% capacity and 10 schools at or over 100% capacity.

Hammond MS falls below 110% (from 116% to 108%) and Bonnie Branch goes above 110% (from 99% to 111%). My kid went to Bonnie Branch Middle (back in the day)…so that one is of interest to me a little.

This on paper looks like a pretty even distribution of students throughout the county and some of the highest schools drop in capacity a little bit (except for Murray Hill MS – stays at 121%).

Equity by addressing the distribution of students participating in the Free and Reduced price meals program (FARMs) across schools to the extent feasible.

This issue has been discussed a lot recently…especially after the council press release and the Council Resolution that was submitted. How did the schools do with this objective in the plan for middle schools…let’s start with the chart:

The Base numbers (or if we do nothing plan) say:

  • 8 schools have more than 33% of students receiving FARMs (also 1 school at 32%)
  • 5 schools have less than 10% of students receiving FARMs

The Proposed numbers (in this plan) say:

  • 8 schools have more than 33% of students receiving FARMs (also 2 schools at 30%)
  • 4 schools have less than 10% of students receiving FARMs

Here are some items of significance in the plan:

  • Harpers Choice MS drops form 52% to 34%
  • Lake Elkhorn MS drops from 53% to 41%
  • Hammond MS jumps up from 19% to 30%
  • Clarksville MS jumps up from <5% to 13%
  • Elkridge Landing MS jumps up from 21% to 27%
  • All of the other numbers vary by less than 5% at any one school

This was without question going to be the most difficult part of the plan to deal with for the school system. The development patterns and policies have helped lead to the concentration of low income families in certain areas of this county and it is very difficult for the school system to redistrict their way out of that concentration. That being said…when you look at the data…not sure you can say this issue has been fully addressed yet. I was happy to see the two schools with more than 50% of students receiving FARMs significantly addressed in this plan.

The map:

Looking at the map nothing specific stands out (nothing like Atholton HS in the high school plan). Obviously most middle schools get changed from a little to a bunch (the most being Clarksville MS sending more than 200 students to Harpers Choice MS).

The middle schools do not appear to have as significant a change as do the high schools…but maybe that is just how I am looking at the data right now.

Know that I have much more data to review and some of that may change some of my opinions and comments above…but these are some of the notable things I have found up to this point. Coming soon – a breakout of the elementary school data.

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

Scott E

7 COMMENTS

  1. The issue with middle school re-districting is all of the middle schoolers being shuffled in this plan are going to be shuffled again in the middle of high school because the districts will have to be addressed when the new high school opens in roughly 3 years. This plan, based on the forecasted impact areas in 2023, will impact current CMS students living east of Great star Drive twice. It looks like you could possibly live right across the street from River Hill High School and not attend. Additionally this plan split the heart of River Hill Village when it used Great Star as the dividing line. Why not go all the way to the MD 32 and maintain the continuity of the village. Because the polygon system is flawed too. And what about the effects on extracurricular activities like CNSL? Teams are assigned by school. Currently most CMS students living in the neighborhoods around Great Star can walk to their practice pool – they cannot walk to Hobbits or Swansfield because no Columbia trails connect River Hill to the main body of Columbia. A vote for Wu was not a vote for me, but rather a vote for people living miles away to come take my spot at my school, not once but twice. And Deb Jung wants to sling inflammatory terms like desegregation at us as soon as we receive the news that 7300+ students are being moved around the county. This is despicable leadership. The whole situation was designed to traumatize HOCO citizens. We need to clean this house so we can put our county back together.

    • Wu’s home is also impacted by this plan and moved from CMS to HCMS. I don’t think he will vote to approve, but we need to convince other BOE how reckless this plan is.

  2. You make the point that development policies have helped to concentrate poverty in certain areas and I agree. It’s a problem that the school system can not solve. Sending students to other schools doesn’t change where they live – it may take away a family’s opportunity to attend a local school in their neighborhood. Say a low income student is sent to a new school, farther away and their family has no car. What happens is that that student does not have the same opportunity to participate in after school events or activities – they may have to ride the bus to school and then ride it home in the afternoon. For high school students that’s a lot lost opportunity for the student and probably the parents too. The idea that attending a school with a lower Farms rate will automatically benefit a student is simplistic. I work in a public school in a neighboring county with a Farms rate of 93-95% – we don’t want different students, we want resources to supplement their needs (right now I would love free glasses!) The county council would be better serving the community if they addressed the reasons that poverty is concentrated in certain areas in HC – development policies, lack of affordable housing, poor public transportation, lack of affordable child care, etc. I don’t know exactly what problem this “equity” is trying to solve? Is it that some people are uncomfortable with the reality of poverty existing in HC — no one got less poor because they were sent to a different school.

    • Agree completely with the above poster. And from what I can tell they are moving non-Farms students to move the numbers (my polygon moves from Clarksville MS to Harpers Choice MS so we would be part of the 200 kids moving). Which does actually nothing to address the needs of the actual FARMS kids in HCMS. Changing classmates does not change the FARMS families economics or the teachers or the other resources. It’s a terrible plan. Increasing transportation times is also a horrible move as these kids are stressed enough without adding longer commute times to their days. I’m sorry but my family will not play along. I’d much rather spend money to get FARMS families better resources (before and after care and enrichment have been cited as particular challenges).

  3. Scott: is there a way to determine what other sorts of classroom change would happen? For example, a large proportion of students at Clarksville MS are in the extensive GT program; I don’t know if all of those programs are supported at HCMS. I assume so, but it’s difficult to tell from the publicly-facing websites. (Yes, the curriculum is the same across the county, but don’t you also need a critical mass of kids to get teachers assigned?) I would imagine that this allocation issue could be critical for special ed students also.

    • I do not access to that kind of detailed data at this time. Sorry. Would have to go to the HCPSS or the HoCoBOE for that information.

  4. We have personally been touched by hcpss redistricting 3 times already. I have an 8th grader and a 4th grader. We used to live in Oakland Mills. The redistricting of Stevens Forrest took it from a 9 score school with very good and diverse student body to a school that is what it is now. Every family we knew moved…so we moved too. The whole area got MORE segregated, not less. Found excellent school in Ellicott City. First middle school changed for our address then elementary school got crowded. Redistricted. We moved closer to the schools we got redistricted to. Three times is enough for us. We’re willing to move again, but sure hope we don’t have to. When people move to an area they know what schools they want. No one is looking for their children to be ‘buzzed’ around.

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